The Bones of Albion – Our Stories and our Songs

A year or so ago a friend of mine mine recommended that I watch a film. It was called Dreamkeeper, and is the tale of a Native American Grandfather, travelling to a tribal gathering, being driven there by his teenage grandson. The grandson has been seduced by the modern age, and is in trouble with a gang, and has pretty much dismissed the Old Ways of his tribe. As the journey progresses it becomes apparent that his Grandfather is a keeper of the sacred tales of the tribe and, as mile passes mile, he tells the stories to his Grandson. It takes a little while to get going, but when it does it’s captivating, emotional, spiritual, a beautiful life-affirming film.

As I watched I couldn’t help but think about our own stories – the Bones of Albion, the Matter of Britain. Some years ago I travelled to Greece to play a concert there and took the opportunity to play the Pipes of Pan. A song about Pan sung right there in Arcadia. As I introduced the song I saw a few tear-filled eyes looking back at me from the audience and I found out why during the break. The Greek Orthodox Church has quite a hold in Greece and, particularly in the area I was playing, dictated what was taught in schools. The old myths and stories of Greece were not taught there. It took a travelling musician from Britain to help reconnect some of those Greek people with their own mythology! I was gobsmacked. But then I thought about our schools, and how the tales of our ancestors here are also not taught. Maybe in areas of Wales children are encouraged to explore the Mabinogi, but certainly not anywhere else, and these are tales of this island. Our days of the week are named after the Germanic Gods, but most people seem to learn their Norse mythology from Marvel’s recent movies.

When I go to Pagan gatherings there are many people who know these tales, but some don’t, and others even groan when a Bard stands to tell the tale of Cerridwen and Taliesin…again. But these are our tales! They are in the stone, the water, our blood, the land. I could hear that tale time and time again and read something new from it every time. Ok, I’m a Bard, I would love these stories, I get that, but to me our stories, poems and songs help us to know who we are, where we’ve come from. Even if you live in the USA, New Zealand, Australia, if your ancestors came from Britain these tales are your tales too.

Over a year on and this film still comes into my memory and awareness. It really moved me. I’ve found Dreamkeeper on YouTube. I don’t know how long it’ll be there but if you have an evening, watch it through and, hopefully, you too will feel the pull to explore the tales of the land land your ancestors.


10 responses to “The Bones of Albion – Our Stories and our Songs”

  1. So true. Our education system seems hell bent on turning out an endless stream of accountants and faceless and thoughtless corporate clones who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Its a damn shame.

  2. I watched this movie a couple of years ago and it brought tears to my eyes. The wise male figure. The connection to ancient wisdom. Like many young men I had neither as I was growing up. For decades I worked with practices from other traditions because I did not know that such a tradition still existed in this country. Yet at a deep soul level some part of me did not get met – the part of me that as a child relished in the myths and legends of Albion. So often when I am at sacred sites and I hear parents talking to their children they talk about the things we have that those people did not have – i.e. material comforts. I have yet to hear anyone asking their kids to imagine the sense of community, the storytelling around the fire, the spiritual connection with nature that our ancestors may have had. I wonder how we might get some of this sense of our own indigenous wisdom into our schools? Anyone already doing something like this?

    • “I wonder how we might get some of this sense of our own indigenous wisdom into our schools? Anyone already doing something like this?” (Matthew Appleton)

      Good question. In the U.K. (correct at the time of press!!) Pete Coe is a “folk singer/musician” who does a lot of work in schools on music and dance. ( He covers such things as “Narrative verse in ancient ballads, topical broadsides & street singers” and “An introduction to the English Folk (Mummers) Play, looking at texts, performance & costume styles” amongst lots of other things. There are plenty of other folk musicians who supplement their gigs with school work but they tend to focus on the music/song side. Many schools do invite in poets, authors and drama workshop companies but I don’t know if anyone has set up a project specifically to present aspects of our native mythology and tradition. I’d guess that there is an opening here for someone/some group. The potential to combine history, literature, drama, art and costume should make this an attractive cross curricular activity for schools.

  3. I just finished watching Dreamkeeper. I was spellbound through out the whole thing. It was a great movie and I am surprised that I have not heard about it before. Thank you very much for bringing it to my attention.

  4. I first saw that film several years ago, when a French Canadian Mohawk friend gave me a copy. It blew me away, and I watched a number of other films afterwards, and started collecting and reading books like Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Neither Wolf Nor Dog, and Black Elk Speaks. I think they spoke to the subconscious yearning for my own history and mythology, and I largely credit Dreamkeeper with helping me to realise that my true path was the path of Druidry. Isn’t it strange that we get drawn to the tales of other countries before learning of our own. Regards, Lexie

  5. Great post, Damh! – & had heard that Dreamkeeper was amazing, so will check it out (and, btw, it is v good to see mention of the fact that, even if (originally) born in another country, if most of your ancestry relates in some way directly to the British Isles, that ‘these are our tales too’, etc)….as a # here in the UK had inferred to me otherwise, one person even saying ‘Americans go home’ — sorry, but I’m not leaving! Having lived in the UK for 24+ years, as I needed to for my work, *this* is truly my Home, the land of many of my ancestors. For many, the ‘long-term ex-pat’ experience is a unique situation in its own way, bringing various challenges and blessings along with it…. but seeing the Unity with indigenous peoples everywhere has also been key, too, especially re: music, storytelling, and other traditions, etc….can be v powerful, across all countries….while fully appreciating the individuality of each. & Music is a ‘language’ nearly everybody can enjoy : )

  6. Thanks Damh, I and a friend will watch this tonight 🙂
    One of my favourite ‘pagan’ films is Boudicca with Alex Kingston, if you can find the Swedish version, not the Exxon Mobil travesty who must have bought the rights to the dvd and chopped huge chunks out of it, totally ruining it.

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